Andy Roddick Talks About His Life After Tennis
Since he retired from professional tennis in 2012, Andy Roddick has talked about all things sports in television studios and podcasts as a broadcaster for Fox Sports 1. He has not, however, done match commentary on the sport he knows best. That will change when he joins the BBC broadcast team for the second week of Wimbledon, where Roddick won plenty of fans but never a title despite three appearances in the singles final.
Roddick, 32, was one of the gameís biggest servers and personalities during his career. He remains the last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title, which came at the 2003 United States Open. He and his wife, the actress and model Brooklyn Decker, are expecting their first child later this year.
(This interview has been condensed and edited.)
Q. So why now? Why the BBC? Why Wimbledon?
A. Obviously with ESPN acquiring the Slams, that was never even really a conversation with my situation with Fox. And frankly, I wanted a little bit of space, and the opportunity to dive in and do other sports was appealing to me when I first stopped. I felt like that was a pretty unique offer for me and not one that normally presents itself to a tennis guy. As far as BBC, I told Brook for a long time that that was probably the only job Iíd want to do as far as commentary, at least right now, just because of the prestige of it. Iíve had a love affair with Wimbledon for a long time.
Q. What kind of tennis commentator do you want to be?
A. I donít know that I want to think about it that much. One of the things Iím lucky to have now, Iíve still played against 90 percent of these guys. I can talk about situational matchups, the business end of being at Wimbledon, the different kind of pressure that people will face. I have a pretty standard rule even when Iím on Fox. Iím happy to say something, even if itís negative, as long as I would say it to the person sitting across from me if they were looking me in the eye. And I think thatís fair. I am certainly not going to shy away from anything.
Q. Whatís the learning curve been like on Fox?
A. Itís fun to be around people from other sports and almost watch them watch these sports. You learn more doing that and asking questions, being in a room with baseball players like Frank Thomas and Jimmy Rollins while a World Series game is going on and asking them questions about certain pitch counts and when runners are on and everything else. You learn more in that space than probably anything else.
Q. During your career, you would sometimes get exasperated with the media. You have a different perspective on that now that youíre a part of it?
A. Not really. I always got the American tennis thing, and I feel like I answered it with an uptick in my voice 90 percent of the time, and on the days when I didnít, well, everybody has bad days, right? The Monday morning quarterback thing ticked me off because everyone kind of knows a game plan, but I still just never underestimate how hard it is to execute something. I guess my frustration came from being a top-five guy in the world and having someone who hasnít actually played tennis telling me how I should have played the match. That just ticked me off to no end and, frankly, that probably still would.
Q. After three years away, youíre heading back to your old workplace. Do you feel you have enough distance now? Are you going to feel comfortable in a different role?
A. I donít know that I was ever going to be the guy who needed to go and be at every tennis event when he retired. I think Iíve been to two matches just because I had to do some sponsor stuff on tour, but I never stopped watching tennis. I never stopped playing when guys are through town. I never stopped talking about tennis. I still get calls all the time from guys on tour if they want to just rap about something or need a scouting report for someone Iíve played. So being visible and still being involved in tennis are two different things.
Q. What images stick with you from Wimbledon?
A. I still get asked about Wimbledon every two days of my life from somebody. I have zero bitterness about it all. I really donít. Itís the place where I have some of my biggest heartbreak, but I certainly appreciated even the chance to get after it. I donít harbor any weird feelings. Thatís the biggest hole in my rťsumť. Itís one that I wish I could fill. Iím certainly aware of all the ramifications from it, but I donít have a lot of pain from it. When I think of Wimbledon, my favorite time was the practice week when you could walk to the venue without anybody there and you didnít have to take the tunnels underneath. And just every single year the first walk from the locker room out to Aorangi Park and back, it just floored me every year with the gravity of the place. I got all things Wimbledon from a very early age and always appreciated it.
Q. Watching Novak Djokovic get that extended ovation after losing the French Open to Stan Wawrinka this year, I flashed back to the Wimbledon crowdís reaction to you after losing the marathon to Roger Federer in 2009. Did that cross your mind?
A. Itís a feeling of respect, which is really meaningful in a moment like that. After I lost í09 Wimbledon, in the moment the only thing I was thinking was: Donít break down, donít break down, just get through it. Because I knew once I started a little bit I was going to start sobbing uncontrollably, which I didnít want.
So the crowd tested me with that respect and with that ovation, and it does mean a lot. Athletes tend to get melodramatic in moments, but Novak, from what I heard, showed his appreciation, and that will serve him well as far as the way heís perceived publicly. He showed something beyond being the No. 1 player in the world who is going about his business and kind of seems immune to everything. Frankly, itís just nice to see a human moment after something like that.
Q. You are 32. Federer is close to turning 34. Ivo Karlovic, who is 36, just reached the semifinals in Halle with his big serve. Honestly, do you ever have any second thoughts?
A. [Long pause.] This is just a moment of honesty. Once I stopped believing I could win a major, I didnít want to continue. I won two of my last five events on tour, and you hate to say that wasnít enough because you want to respect people that that would be a dream summer for. But it changed the way I wanted to be able to play a little bit. For me, going out and playing guys in practice sets that are still 30, 40, 50 in the world and kind of getting a barometer of where I would be, that is kind of enough for me. I have a pretty good understanding of where I would lay in the landscape of tennis right now.
Q. And it wouldnít be deep in the second week of a major?
A. Deep is one thing. Getting to the second week is fine. But I donít know how that changes my legacy. Wait, legacy is too big a word for me. How about my history in tennis? I donít know how that changes anything. You are putting in 45 weeks and to stay in neutral, I donít know that thatís what I wanted. I would never want to coast home. The way that I kind of narrowed talent margins with the guys I was trying to beat ó and I didnít beat them very often ó was just through working and being a psychopath about that.
At a certain point, my body couldnít do it. You look at Jim Courier. He did the same thing. Lleyton Hewitt did the same thing, and his body has been touch-and-go for a while. You are starting to see it with Rafa [Nadal] a little bit more maybe.
It takes its toll with the guys who kind of have to narrow the margin by being physical. I donít have any regrets about when I walked away. Do I have an ego about playing guys now that are ranked a certain level and still wanting to beat them? Yes, absolutely. Do I feel great when it works out on a given day? Yes, I feel fantastic about it. I love it. Have I ever toyed with going back and doing it full time? I have not.
Q. Youíre playing doubles with Mardy Fish in Atlanta next month. But no singles wild card? No cameo?
A. Frankly, if I could go play a challenger or a small tour event without the fallout of what it would take publicly; if I could put on a mask and go play a challenger, that would be awesome. I would love it because I love playing and I love the competition, but dealing with everything else that would go along with it, Iím not sure that it would be worth it to have a good time
Q. Still, as innately competitive as you are, it must be strange to watch tennis knowing that you could still be out there?
A. It is and it isnít. Beating a guy handily who is 60 in the world is a lot different than trying to play in the semis of a Grand Slam. So one makes me very happy, and I like it. Itís fun. I have an ego, but the reality of being able to do it time and time again is different. Every time I watch a Wawrinka-Djokovic final Iím going, ďIím soooo good where Iím at.Ē
Q. Fifty-shot rallies can do that to a man.
A. We are good here. Retirement is fantastic.
Q. Are you surprised, three years after you stopped, that Federer is still No. 2 at his age?
A. No, because unlike most people I never compared myself to Roger. Itís phenomenal, and itís kind of what we were talking about earlier with the guys who are so physical and have to consciously try to do things. With Roger, it just seems like he thinks it, and it happens. Itís an insane ability. The racket in his hand seems to just make sense.
I donít think heís as fast as he was in his prime. I donít think a lot of the strokes are as good as they were in his prime, but heís just such a good tennis player, and as long as heís healthy he can figure it out. He can mix up his game on a given day. As long as someone is not just overpowering him like Stan did in Paris, Roger has so many options that heís going to figure out how to beat people as long as they donít come out and just throw haymakers and land them.
Q. How about that other 33-year-old, your friend Serena Williams?
A. The French Open might have been her most impressive Slam, because she didnít have her A game and she might not have had her B game. Itís like when you see a pitcher pitch a good ballgame, give up some hits but not get burned on the scoreboard. I feel like thatís what she did, and if sheís the person who can do that now consistently and get through like she did in Paris, the only thing that makes us say, ďHow much longer does she have?Ē is her age. Nothing about her game suggests it. She hasnít really lost anything as far as weight of shot, movement, anything.
Q. I was watching your fellow Nebraskan, Jack Sock, reach the fourth round at the French Open and it struck me that the pressure on you following up on the Sampras-Agassi-Courier generation was so great, but enough time has gone by that the pressure on this next generation of American players seems much lighter. People are relieved to see any kind of young, promising American talent at this stage.
A. Frankly the shadow of Andre, Pete, [Michael] Chang and Courier is a lot longer than my shadow, and for good reason. When I would lose in a Wimbledon final, it was generally viewed as a massive disappointment. If Jack made the semis of a Slam, it would be viewed as a massive, massive, massive win. And thatís a good thing for him. I just had fun watching him because I feel like thereís a sense of belief. I donít feel like heís scared of expectation now. I loved the fact that he got a terrible draw in Paris and went out and just owned it. Itís exciting to watch him. Thereís no reason he canít get into that top 10.
Q. You essentially launched this ďsupercoachĒ trend when you hired Jimmy Connors. How do you feel about the fact that it has become so prevalent now? And does the fact that the two-coach model now exists give you any desire to play that role for a player in the future?
A. Not surprising for top players to rely on the .000001 percent of tennis people who can relate to what theyíre trying to achieve. I donít have any interest in coaching like that right now.
Q. Have you been able to get any of the structure or adrenaline rush that you got from the tour from what youíve done afterward?
A. I will never ever in my life replace that first 30 seconds after winning a big match. Thatís gone. Thatís not coming back. That adrenaline rush doesnít exist for me anymore, although thatís before fatherhood. So I know I might want to walk that statement back in the next six months. But at this point, three years gone by, I donít think I ever expected anything to replace that. Thankfully, I had it for the moments I did, but at no point in my life did I think playing golf was going to equate with winning a Wimbledon semifinal.
Where the margins are filled is not with adrenaline. Itís time with friends, being able to have a glass of wine over dinner and have a legitimate conversation. On tour, every single meal I was so high-strung and intense, Iíd be in and out of dinner in 45 minutes. Very rushed, selfish, next thing, next-thing kinds of obsessions. In my opinion, you lose the adrenaline moments, but you gain the quiet moments.